Posted by Chuck on Feb 28, 2011 in Weight Loss | Comments Off
Just ran out to the mailbox to grab the mail…and when I got back, my phone was blinking. It was a message from my doctor’s office. If you’ll recall…when I spoke to her by phone last week, I asked if she thought it was wise for me to come in for a blood draw so she could evaluate my current levels, just in case we could drop any more of the prescription medicines…since some are known to inhibit weight loss (we had already cut my blood pressure meds in half…and I had completely dropped an antidepressant that I’d begun taking in November, with no ill results). She thought the blood draw was a great idea…so I went in the next morning, they confirmed the weight loss to that point (about 36 lbs on that particular day)…checked my pulse and blood pressure…and took some blood.
So today’s call was regarding my test results…and I quote:
“…your cholesterol profile is VERY GOOD. She says go ahead and stop the Zocor…and we’ll check your cholesterol levels again in 6 to 8 weeks….”
And why is this significant? Because since January 3rd of this year…I have switched the process by which I select my foods to focus FIRST on fat intake, SECOND on protein intake…and then, to eat for taste and cover my nutritional needs in terms of vitamins, etc. Thus…whereas quantities may or may not have varied (I clearly AM eating less of EVERYTHING than I was two months ago…), the percentage of fat and protein in my diet is signficantly higher than it was at the first of the year.
So, you might say: “Some fat is fine…unless you’re trying to lose weight. Protein is good…although the USDA guidelines say to treat meat like a garnishment rather than a main course. But…what about the vegetables?? There OUGHT to be vegetables. SEND IN THE VEGETABLES!!”
And to that, I say: “That’s fine, if that’s how you prefer to eat. But for me, I need BOTH to eat in a healthy way AND to lose weight…a LOT of weight. And what I am doing now has helped me shed 39 lbs over the last seven weeks. Without hunger. WITHOUT FEELING DEPRIVED. NOT EVEN FOR AN HOUR.”
“But…all that FAT…all that MEAT! Your cholesterol will be SKY HIGH!!”
Well, based on what I had been reading, I did not expect that to be the case. In fact, when I set out my copious quantities of prescription meds and supplements for this week…I was down to 3 pills left of the statin. Under normal circumstances, I would have re-ordered the prescription then, so that when I ran out this Friday I’d have some at the ready. But…as I predicted last week in a blog post, I did expect expect my cholesterol to be higher…and maybe it would even DROP some. So, I just decided I’d wait and see what happened.
The doctor’s office says my cholesterol profile is VERY GOOD…and that I can stop taking the statin I’ve been taking for the last year to manage my cholesterol!
I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. In addition to a few other things for which I am paid and somewhat known…I’m a fat guy who’s trying to shed a couple hundred pounds of body fat accumulated over the past 25 years. So…no…*I* wouldn’t take my word for it, either. But now I have some hard data.
And I hope you might find this news as enlightening…and encouraging…as I did.
Posted by Chuck on Feb 28, 2011 in Low Carb & Slow-Carb Eating, Weight Loss | Comments Off
I am continuing to get questions about what I am eating to have lost nearly 40 pounds in about 6 weeks. By the way…I have been at a 39-lb loss plateau for about a week. This doesn’t concern me at all, as I took 20 years to put ON the 200 extra pounds…so I’m in no rush to see it all drop off by summer for swimsuit weather.
Anyway…since January 3rd, the basis of my food choices has shifted to these three priorities:
1. nutritional sufficiency
2. insulin impact (also sometimes referred to as glycemic index or low-glycemic foods…a factor in management of blood sugar…so critical for both diabetics and for those concerned with weight management)
3. taste (i.e., I can’t survive long-term on cardboard, even if it was the most-nutritious food on earth…I just can’t live that way)
So here is my breakfast for this morning:
3-4 bites of Tyson Chicken Breast Strips (sorry, forgot to weigh during preparation…maybe 4 oz, though). These things are so delicious. I’m not generally a fan of white chicken meat, because it’s so dry…but these are moist and wonderfully-seasoned right out of the bag. I don’t need to do anything else to them…just heat and dig in. Meat is my best source of protein (essential for blood sugar stability…I’m not diabetic, but this also helps keep hunger at bay and helps you maintain focus between meals) and of fat (which makes you feel satisfied when you’ve eaten).
A raspberry CARBmaster Yogurt from Kroger. 4 net carbs (I am currently keeping it under 20 net carbs a day to stay in ketosis and keep my weight loss going), with maybe 12-15 fresh blueberries and a pinch of Truvia (natural sweetener with stevia and erythritol) to make the yogurt just a tad sweeter. The Truvia doesn’t even count as carbs…especially in this quantity. But the combination of the three tastes great!
And finally, a slice of SmartCarb #1 Wheat Bread from Julian Bakery (toasted, with real Land O’ Lakes butter). The bread is 1 net carb and adds a really nice texture to the meal.
So…5 net carbs…and my goal is about 5-6 per meal. Very filling ((I won’t eat again until 12 or 1…and I could have stopped several bites before the end of the meal and been satisfied…thanks to the natural appetite-supression effect of ketosis). Tastes excellent. And best of all…because of the type of wheat the bread is made from…and the sugar alcohols used in the yogurt instead of regular sugar…this has a very low-impact effect on the pancreas…and causes a nice stable long-term reaction (instead of the 100-point jump in blood sugar levels resulting from a breakfast based around oatmeal or cereal). I’m forgoing eggs in this meal because I don’t have much time today for food prep. But they are also really good for breakfast, and don’t cause blood sugar problems, either.
A nice bonus: This bread is gluten-free. So for those with Celiac’s Disease…no problems there, either!
** UPDATE **
The Snack That Became A Meal
I had to burn up the rest of the blueberries that I ate from breakfast before they went bad….so I grabbed a couple of Snack Pack Juicy Gels…basically sugar-free Jello…and tossed them in a bowl. I threw in the rest of the blueberries… a few blackberries and a strawberry. I figured I would still be hungry… so I planned to have half a QuestBar to tide me over til dinner.
First of all…this was EXCELLENT. I didn’t need any erythritol all to sweeten the gelatin. It was perfect the way it came. The fruit was great. Nice texture, a lot of fiber. The gelatin just served to bring it all together (I have been doing the same thing with Snack Pack sugar-free pudding as well).
And…when I finished the fruit and gelatin…I realized I wasn’t hungry anymore. So the QuestBar went back on the shelf…to be devoured at another time.
Posted by Chuck on Feb 23, 2011 in Weight Loss | Comments Off
I simply had no time today. I haven’t stopped to eat except once for 10 minutes…and I still have quite a bit of work to deliver before tomorrow morning.
1. QuestBar – Had this for breakfast and dinner today. This is the BEST FRIEND someone on a weight-reduction plan ever had!
Tasty…chewy (but softer when sitting in your shirt pocket for a few minutes…or some folks like them after 10-15 seconds in the microwave)…230 calories…and FOUR net carbs (the induction level for low-carb dieting is 20mg of carbs per day…not a problem here!). No hunger for at least FIVE HOURS after eating (that’s been MY experience, anyway…consistently!). Plenty of fat makes your hunger disappear. Lots of protein makes for stable blood sugar…thus, no hunger and continued mental sharpness even without a large carb/caloric influx.
And, just look at these ingredients: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Chicory Root Fiber, Almond Butter, Dry Roasted Almonds, Water, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Lo Han Guo, Sucralose. Sounds like REAL FOOD to me!
Just got 3 boxes delivered yesteday (they are about $2 apiece and can only be ordered online). This makes eating less, and still getting your nutrition in SO much easier. I eat these and I’m just not hungry.
Whatever diet you’re on…or if you’re not on a diet at all…there are times you wish you could JUST NOT BE HUNGRY. This is the best, quickest, cheapest answer I’ve ever found for that.
And…when I have time or I’m in the mood for taste or a feeling of fullness, I’ll have some “traditional” food (you know…the stuff you use knives and forks and spoons with!). Like this:
2. Today, for lunch…I’d been out running (unexpected) errands and I needed to get back home and get some work knocked out. I will usually get a large Wendy’s chili with cheese and onions when I’m on the road and in a rush. It’s cheap ($2.19 for a large size). Tastes great. All legal foods on the Slow-Carb plan (read about it in The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss), as far as I’ve been able to determine. But, I haven’t had mushrooms for a month, and I was in the mood for some.
For whatever reason, Wendy’s doesn’t have them available to add in on request. But, Tim Horton’s does. In fact…you don’t have to ask. Mushrooms come in the chili as a standard item (oddly, though…they don’t have onions…either included, or as a requested item).
So, I grabbed a large chili ($4.79) from Tim’s and headed home.
Then, I added two spoonfuls of organic sour cream from Raisin Rack…sliced up 3 black olives…mixed it in…and “et” it. I also added a couple spoonfuls of cottage cheese on the side…because I love the stuff…and to give a nice cold-temperature contrast with the warm chili. Tasty!
And…there’s a reason that Tim’s charges $4.79 for their large size. I got a two-thirds of the way through it, and was full. So I’ve got enough left for another meal, with one or two sides.
I prefer Wendy’s chili. It’s the best-tasting fast-food chili I’ve ever had. But Tim Hortons’ chili (which is just a little milder and doesn’t strike me as quite as flavorful) is perfectly fine as second option.
Now, I KNOW…it SEEMS like there’s something wrong with building your diet around fat and protein, and just added in vegetables for taste and texture. It’s the OPPOSITE of what we’re taught. And..who knows? Maybe the USDA is right. But…from all I’ve read and listened to over the past 4 months…that’s just not the case.
But…my doctor called me today. I last saw her 2 weeks (and about 13 pounds) ago. Since I’m not scheduled for a visit for another month…I told her how much more I’ve lost, and asked if I she thought maybe I should come in for a blood draw just to be safe. She said that was a great idea… and that way, they can document the weight loss there and grab my vitals as well. My goal is to double-check about the levels of meds I’m currently taking. It’s been almost two weeks since we had to cut my blood pressure meds in half…and I have dropped completely off the antidepressants I was taking for about 3 months before that.
I would love to reduce or even eliminate any medicines I don’t need whenever it becomes apparent that I don’t need them anymore. Certain kinds of meds are known to interfere with weight loss…because they affect your body’s metabolism (blood pressure meds definitely fall into this category) and there are a lot of folks who feel that statins do as well (cholesterol level control meds…which I’ve been taking for about a year). I have slowly been trimming back my non-prescription supplements over the last couple weeks (finishing them up, but just not buying new ones)…but I’m not dumb enough to “go boldly” into unsafe areas like messing with prescription meds on my own. So…maybe Monday or Tuesday, I’ll have some objective feedback…AND I’ll know for sure if my cholesterol is much higher…cuz of all this fat and protein I’m eating. Or, if I am healthier across the board…which is more along the lines of my expectations. It will be very interesting to find out!
Posted by Chuck on Feb 19, 2011 in Low Carb & Slow-Carb Eating, Weight Loss | Comments Off
39 pounds in 44 days.
“Nice! What’s Your Secret?”
When I started eating low-carb back on January 3, 2011…I knew I was going to lose weight. But I didn’t know how much (my long-term goal is to lose 200 lbs) and I didn’t know how quickly it would happen. I’ve lost SOME weight before doing exercise or cutting out certain foods (20 lbs or so)…but it never felt “real”…because I knew the changes I was trying to make were not sustainable for me over the long haul. I had tried lots of diets, but couldn’t find anything that would stick for the long haul…so I always fizzled out in a few days or weeks.
A couple years ago, I started listening to a free podcast called The Livin’ La Vida Low Carb Show (highly recommended if you want to find out more…and you just MAY hear a familiar voice doing the intro and outro for the show as well ) hosted by Jimmy Moore. Jimmy had weighed 410 lbs in 2002…dropped 180 lbs in a year…and has kept 150 of it off 9 years later. So I knew that he and I had similar journeys to travel…and as Dan Miller says (another favorite…check out HIS terrific podcast on learning to make money doing the things you love. I’ve been listening for years!)…If you want to BE a certain way…DO what the people who ARE that way do!”
I’m a 53-yr-old caucasian male who SOMEHOW had allowed himself to balloon to over 400 lbs by his late 40s. I’ve had a lot of drama at different points in my life (lots of important things demanding my attention), and the weight gain just sort of ‘got past me” while I tended to other priorities. I’m not a terribly organized or self-disciplined person…I churned out a lot of work…but supposedly simple things like “what I should eat” sort of got put off for a long time.
As a kid, I was normal weight. At 17, I was skinny. By my forties, I’d been morbidly obese for some time. Standing at about 6 ft, I had started putting on weight after adopting sloppy eating habits (especially Mountain Dew and ice cream) after my mother’s death in my mid-teens…and I was over 200 lbs by the time I was 20. But I was active, and busy…and just didn’t pay attention to my continuing weight gain.
Before his death in 2004, my dad had carried about 220 lbs for many years…and though my mom was never fat…nor was she skinny. So I woke up one day and realized that it was only by the grace of God that I had survived this long…much less survived without diabetes. I heard once that 1 lb of extra fat on your body causes your heart to have to pump your blood AN EXTRA 7 MILES EVERY DAY! That was long ago…and you can imagine how that knowledge wore on me ever since. My mom died at 39 (breast cancer) and her younger brother at 60 (cancer)…so I have subconsciously had the sense that I was living on borrowed time anyway. Of course…despite the good news now…we ALL are. I could drop dead tomorrow. But…I’m hoping not to. I’ve got a 4-yr grandson now…and I’d like to be around for awhile to see him grow up.
By 50, I’d been sleeping with a CPAP and then a BiPAP to treat my sleep apnea for ten years. I’d been on high blood pressure meds for the last 5 years. Last year, my doctor added a statin to help keep my cholesterol under control. I also sit on my already-wide backside all day to work in front of the microphone and the computer. And…while I’ve said for a long time that leaving my last full-time job and striking out on my own was the best thing I ever did (it permitted me to be there for my dad during the last 3 years of his life…AND I’ve certainly made a lot more money as self-employed guy)…it also meant I was less active than ever. Also…as I approached 50, I wasn’t as strong as I was 10 years ago…and my mobility was becoming threatened. I had once been active: volleyball, basketball, etc…ironically, in high school, an Otterbein College athlete had visited our gym class to give us some running instruction, and told me I had the build of a long distance runner. But…over time, life became more sedentary. Work, kids, etc…
I had tried having a treadmill at home before. I swapped a recumbent stationary bike for a used treadmill and hauled it home. However…most treadmills are made for people 250 lbs or less. I would step on the belt…and it was just sit there and look at me…and maybe groan a little.
After cancelling the gym membership, I went shopping for an “industrial grade” treadmill. I found one on eBay for $750 and bought it. Long story short…once it was delivered, it turned out to be a 220V machine… So the final total to get it delivered, up and running was around $1500.
So in my journey for weight-loss solutions, I began listening to Jimmy Moore’s low-carb podcast, and liked it very much. He talks to EVERYONE…including those who believe differently from him…even the complete opposite…for example, Dean Ornish…who teaches low-fat dieting (pretty much akin to Weight Watchers and the USDA food pyramid…which low-carbers believe should be turned UPSIDE DOWN!). It was intrigued. I’d read the Atkins Diet Revolution 15 years ago and tried it…but I could only do the meat-and-eggs thing for so long…and I finally bailed on it. But listening to this podcast…and reading books by Gary Taubes (Good Calories, Bad Calories, Why We Get Fat) brought me to a better understanding of how low-carb eating could be adopted as a lifestyle change…instead of a short-term diet. Long-term sustainability was always the deal-breaker for me.
During this time, I had also hired a personal trainer and was showing up at the gym 2-3 times a week. I got stronger and lost a little weight. But, a disabled car in the immediate family meant that my transportation skills were needed almost every day. I finally had to stop the gym thing. Then, life got even crazier. My stepmother got very ill in early 2010…and for the last 4 months of her life, I was her primary caretaker. So I was off-task on the weight thing for a good while. And after she passed and I got back to working full-time…several months passed…and I found that I had become quite depressed…but 5-6 months after her death, I was still in a funk.
By the end of 2010 my condition had begun to degrade seriously. I described it to a friend as “someone having turned my world over on it’s side”. I couldn’t make decisions (normally not an issue for me) and was cowering at the stress that was hitting me in November-December. My wife finally told me there was no sign of improvement happening and hounded me for a few days to see the doctor. I finally went…and the doctor put me on an antidepressant. A 50mg dose had little discernable effect…so I went back for an evaluation around Christmas. She tripled the dose to 150mg.
Drugs that treat mental illnesses generally take 2 weeks to get “to dose”…the level in your brain where it reaches full effect…which would have put me at about January 5th…roughly the time where I changed my eating habits….though I had been back to listening, reading and studying low-carb again starting in Nov-Dec…I was WAY too messed-up in the head to actually take action on what I was learning. So I’m certain that the drug did have a positive effect on my mental health…but I also think that the changes in eating habits began to help as well. Some of that is yet TBD. But I’ve dropped back down to 50 mg already and am planning to stop that medication completely in a couple days, to see how it goes.
The amount of self-loathing that goes on in the mind of a morbidly-obese person is pretty staggering. I’d been on and off anti-anxiety/antidepressant meds for the last few years. I was hospitalized 3 times in a couple week period back in the mid-2000s. CAT scans, treadmill test, book workup: “Hmmm….you’re in really good health for a guy your size. Have you considered that it might be anxiety?” I’ve lived with a lot of stress over the past 10 years. Leaving full-time employment (7 weeks before 9/11 when the whole freakin’ economy shut down for the rest of the year…great TIMING, eh? LOL…), the death of two parents…plus mental illness, criminal charges, court cases and jail time all in my immediate/extended family…including coverage on local news and talk shows, tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills, and a finding of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’…not to mention 70-90 work weeks for the past 20 years…it’s enough to drive a guy CRAZY sometimes! LOL…
WHY LOW-CARB WORKS
What IS the purpose of food, anyway? Why do we even NEED to eat?
- certainly…to provide nutrition for our bodies…to keep it alive
- to give us the physical strength for your daily tasks
- those who frequently have low blood sugar will tell you how cold you feel…they often must throw on a sweater or turn on a space heater until they can eat again.
- to keep hunger at bay
- and to achieve a state of satiety (not to feel deprived between meals…satisfied …feeling like you’ve “had enough”
The goal of any diet is basically to create an IMBALANCE in your body that forces it to start burning off some of your existing fat stores, instead of just surviving off your daily food intake. This is one of the main reasons what low-fat diets sound so “RIGHT”…so logical. “Eat less FAT…you’ll lose your STORED fat”… right? Here’s the problem: Low-fat diets are HARD (although again… some people have figured out how to do it. Just look at the Japanese…they’ve found a way to get build an entire diet around low-fat… ever seen those bento lunch boxes? Just opening their lunch each day must be like a trip to Disneyland…albeit for Lilliputians or Kandorians…it’s food presentation gone to seed!). And it seems to work just fine for them. But if it was that easy for Americans to do the same we would ALL do it every time we needed to drop a few pounds. To me, low-fat McFoods taste like crap My wife buys these low-fat Triscuits. N ow I LOVED Triscuits…throw on a little meat or cheese or peanut butter, and you’re set! But the low-fat ones are just NASTY…dry as a BONE. And manufactured low-fat foods have a LOT of other stuff thrown in to make up for the last of taste. Like a lot of sugar and salt. Read the ingredients on the labels. They are listed in order of QUANTITY in the serving. They don’t give you percentages…but you can get a sense of it. The ingredient list for Mountain Dew (the BANE of my existence) would read something like: water, HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (sugar), MORE SUGARS, CAFFEINE (the stuff that sucks moisture out of your system and makes you need to drink even MORE…it’s a diuretic, if you want to look it up)…and then some flavorings and preservatives (the benza-pheno-frickafrack names). Oh yes…and don’t forget Green Coloring #94, or whatever.
Sugar is EVIL. Maybe not ALL sugar. And certainly not ALL the time. But…as MANY doctors and nutritionists will tell you, refined sugar is a bad thing…especially in the kind of quantities we eat it here in the U.S. It’s not just SUGAR, either. It’s REFINED CARBS. They start with whole grains and suck out all the nutrients….EVERYTHING naturally good about grains. The simple fact is: refined carbs are empty, WORTHLESS calories. So why are they so popular? Because they are CHEAP…so the food industry will spend a TON of advertising dollars trying to get you to buy them. But, when you eat grains that have been refined and all the nutrient completely removed…SO MUCH SO THAT THEY HAVE TO “FORTIFY” THE FOOD again with injected nutrients, you’re basically just eating nothing. (Hello, WONDER BREAD!) And they turn to sugar once they enter your system anyway. And they cause a massive spike of insulin to be released from your pancreas in order to process the food. You can do that for awhile. But long-term…you’ll gain weight because you’ve overloaded your pancreas so often and for so long…that it really DAMAGES our system. Refined carbs will WEAR OUT…and efffectively KILL the pancreas…it can’t even cope anymore when you eat them too often. I don’t mean they kill it DEAD dead. It’s still sitting there…a living organ…but it loses the ability to generate insulin to process your food…ANY food. And we call that?: DIABETES.
THAT’s why diabetics have to INJECT insulin. Their pancreas won’t produce enough for them to get nutrients anymore. The incidence of diabetes in this country has exploded in the last 30 years. Either you have it or you know someone who does. It’s an ugly way to live and, often an ugly way to die. If you live long enough…you lose limbs. My dad lost a toe…it KILLS your circulation. During the last couple years of his life, it robbed his brain of circulation as well. BAD stuff. Somehow, the food industry has not allowed us to make the connection between refined carbs and the incidence of diabetes. Because…it hits them right in the wallet. Michael Eades and his wife (Google them or watch some of their videos on YouTube) are very good on this.
Here are some other resources related to sugar and refined carbs that I have run across recently:
OK…refined carbs…that’s the bad…the ENEMY.
Here’s the good: And please…be aware that I am NOT a doctor. I would NOT suggest that the way I’m eating is for EVERYONE. I have many friends and family members who just practice portion control or eat low-fat…and they are very healthy and happy! Why should I want to change them? It’s just that *I* could not eat that way as a lifestyle. I am clearly NOT qualified to give medical advice. I’m not a doctor…(although I have played one in audio recordings!).
They’ve taught the low-fat approach to nutrition in medical schools for so long now that your doctor may not be that aware of low-carb eating. My doctor certainly knew something about it…and knows more because of what I’m doing now…when I had lost 26 pounds a couple weeks ago, she said I had made her day! But there are plenty of good doctors and nutritionists who study this stuff and teach it. They ARE qualified. But…you’ll have to sort out what’s real and what works for you for yourself.
You can start the Jimmy Moore podcast that I mentioned earlier. He has a ton of great info. As you learn more…you’ll find out that the whole USDA Food Pyramid that we have today was introduced in the late Seventies. It was very different from the old-school wisdom up til that time. And it was heavily lobbied for by…whom?? General Mills and Kellogg’s? Remember that movie with Lara Flynn Boyle…The Road To Wellville (1994)? It was the story of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg…who purportedly lived to restore people’s health. Well…not so much anymore. Kellogg’s and General Mills are two of the BIGGEST purveyors of cheap, worthless refined carbs. They are in everything. They’ve tried to grab the spotlight again by including whole grains again in their breakfast cereals…but they still suck more than almost anything you can eat…”fortified” with vitamins or not. Did you know that Taco Bell’s beef products are thinned with oatmeal…because it’s cheaper to do so?
The standard low-carb approach to diet basically teaches this:
- high fat
- moderate protein
- low carb – basically NO refined carbs…sugars, breads, pop, ice cream, candy. I *loved* my sweets…so this was going to be a problem for long-term adoption, right?? Not really…but more on THAT later)
“BUT….OMG!!! Fat is bad…it will clog your arteries and you’ll die at 55!!” The reality is…current medical research seems to indicate…it’s not that way.
Typical meals for me: meat, eggs, a few veggies…but I have a lot more variety available than that if I can take the time to fix it (“2-3 EGGS a DAY????…CHOLESTEROL ALERT!!!”). Well…I was already ON cholesterol meds for the last year or more and BP meds for a lot longer. My doctor was pleased with my weight loss when I saw her, but doesn’t know yet that I’ve lost 13 more pounds in the 2 weeks since I saw her, and we probably won’t do a blood draw til next month. She did tell me that if I started feeling lightheaded, it would be time to cut back on blood pressure meds. That happened within a few days, and I did so with her blessing. After my blood draw in a few weeks…I’m betting my cholesterol levels will have DROPPED, not gone up…based on what I’ve been reading and listening to about such things.
MYTHBUSTER TIME: Ask ANYONE how to lose weight…and what’s the first response you hear? “CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT!”…right?? Well…IF that’s true…then why the heck can’t we just eat one bite less every meal and lose weight? Or even a few bites Well, you can…but almost no one does…because it’s way more complicated than that. Zoe Harcombe is particularly helpful on this topic. Depending on the SOURCE of those calories…the body can process them VERY differently. So it’s NOT a simple mathematical calculation…it’s a very complex one…and we get a lot further through trial and error than earning a degree in high math.
Again, the goal of any diet is to tilt your body’s natural processing of food and nutrition…to create a nutritional DEFICIT…that requires your body to begin burning off its fat stores. But the quality and type of food you eat matters more than you think. That’s why refined carbs are THE ENEMY (at least, when eaten in quantity…there’s nothing wrong with a sweet treat sometimes!). Bottom Line for Low-Carb Eating: STOP counting calories and viewing fat as the enemy. Count the CARBS instead!
There were TWO key points that I didn’t “get” the last time I tried low-carbing…maybe 15 years ago…so I failed and bailed in about a week. One is the concept of “NET carbs”. When eating low-carb…you’re taught to “count the carbs” on nutritional labels of every package. You’ll be amazed how they vary from food to food and brand to brand. Again…if you forget most of what I say…remember this point. This was one of the TWO keys that I got right this time:
- NET CARBS: Read a Nutrition Facts label on a package and you will see a category for Total Carbohydrates. Underneath that, you’ll get an explanation of the SOURCE of those carbs. Now remember…we’re counting CARBS here, not calories…right? Well, usually, you will see a listing for Dietary Fiber. I’m looking at a can of black beans at the moment. Total Carbs: 23g per serving…3 servings per can. Again…beans are not good on a traditional low-carb diet…but the point is the carb count here. The Dietary Fiber under that is 6g. On a low-carb diet….ERASE those 6g. Now, we’re at 17 grams per serving. SUBTRACT the dietary fiber cards. Next? Sugars or dietary sugars: 1g. Those COUNT. There is a THIRD category in many products these days…called SUGAR ALCOHOLS (for example…Breyers CarbSmart Ice Cream uses them). I’ve had candy with this stuff before…and my system…and many people’s systems…don’t tolerate it well (remember those chips with OLESTRA years ago?? Same net effect!) However, Im drinking a lot of these now and I’m doing fine. So…sometimes it’s just a period of adjustment. BUT…again… sugar alcohols? Subtract THEM, too They don’t count as carbs. The idea (as was the idea with Olestra) is that the carbs pass thru the body undigested. This is a GOOD thing if your body can handle the stuff!
- KETOSIS: Remember the concept of creating an imbalance in your body? Well in the low-carb world…the goal of the induction phase (20mg or less per day of net carbs for a couple weeks) is to get you into ketosis. This is described as a mild starvation state that the body moves into to prevent starvation. It causes your body to start burning your existing fat stores. Good, right? And here’s the thing…you don’t have to stop eating at all…again, it’s WHAT you eat. I eat well all the time. Never hungry yet. And yet…I’ve had as little as 600 calories in a single 24-hr period…and about 15 net carbs. You might say: “Well, I can just cut back on the these refined carbs and I’ll create an imbalance, right?” I think that’s the general idea. You’ll have to ask someone more knowledgeable. But the question will eventually boil down to: Have you cut out ENOUGH of the refined carbs. Sugars are added to EVERYTHING. They’re hidden. They’re given funny names to slip by when you read the ingredients list. Yes…it’s my understanding that…if you get and hold below the 20 net carbs level for a few days…you will gently slip into a ketogenic state. Want objective proof? Buy some ketone test strips (ketostix) and test your urine. They are in the diabetic section of every drugstore. I should also mention here that some people have reported kidney problems while eating low-carb. I haven’t had any problems and can’t comment further about what or why. If it involves the kidneys, it might involve drinking more…but I really have no clue. I just thought you should be aware.
One last thing before we talk about what I eat these days.
In our society there is often a perception in the mind of the public that people who are “fat, huge, morbidly obese, a porker”…or whatever word might be thrown in their direction…there’s a sense that they are lazy or “just not trying” or simply “How can you live like that??? Skip a sandwich every once in a while, will ya?’. I understand that thinking and am sometimes guilty it myself. But, in my experience…sometimes…people are simply overwhelmed with circumstances in their lives…or they have discovered through trial and error that the “calories in calories out” saying doesn’t work for them in the same way that it does for others, and they are trying to find what CAN work for them, and have just grown frustrated. TRUST ME IN THIS…overweight folks are A THOUSAND times harder on themselves than anyone else ever is in judging them. Over the last few years I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and sharing with other people and challenging my own thought processes about how easily we tend to label each other without really knowing what’s going on in each others’ lives. It’s like the old Indian saying: “Walk a mile another man’s moccasins before you criticize him”.
Or another that I have become fond of recently: “Be kind to one another, because most of us are fighting a hard battle.” (Ian McLaren)
Now, finally…as promised:
WHAT I EAT
On a standard low-carb diet (there are many possible variants…including Slow-Carb…Paleo…or just people who like to tweak different elements and see how their body responds…I found Dana Carpender’s book How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds particularly helpful in sorting through the array of choices), here is a basic overview of the standard low-carb approach:
High Fat - The role of fat in your diet…practically speaking…is satiety (feeling good, full, satisfied…not deprived). This is why low-fat dieting was so hard for me (“life’s too SHORT to live like this!”). Low-carb eating is the opposite of what most dieters think of naturally and what the currently-adopted nutrition science teaches (not the latest nutrition science, many argue…more on that later!). Fat means real butter…real salad dressing (the low fat stuff is loaded up with salt, sugar, spices, carbs and calories to mask the lack of taste!). Regular, not low-fat cottage cheese and sour cream (great dip possbilities!). Milk is to be avoided. And maybe 4 ozs of cheese per day (because it comes with some carbs, I guess).
Moderate Protein – Meat is where I get mine most of mine. Anything is permissable…but generally, chicken and fish are a bit healthier than beef and pork. I like them all except most fish…which I eat sparingly
Low Carbs – And as mentioned earlier…the REAL enemy is refined carbs. There are some carbs in almost anything…and your body needs some carbs. They are not evil…they just need to be watched when eating low-carb. I will get specific in the list of specifics I’m eating later. Veggies are good for you. But starchy ones are to be eaten in moderation. Fruit are OK…but fruits today and bred to be huge and sweet (mmm, yeah…that’s why we LIKE them!). So you have to watch how much of them you consum. Smaller amounts of berries are the best choice. Traditional low-carb eating also does NOT include beans or potatoes (although there is a great substitute for mashed potatoes that is quite good. More on that in the food specifics later).
One more thing before the food specifics: In the last several years, I’ve heard several great interviews with and read a book by Michael Pollan (he’s a journalist rather than a scientist…as is the aforementioned Gary Taubes). Both men have has a real influence my thinking about food in recent years. Although I picked up a number of interesting things from Pollan (like the concept of conscious eating…which I don’t practice yet because I’m usually in such a hurry…a chronic, but hopefully not even-longer-term condition for me), this was my KEY TAKEAWAY from Pollan’s book: Did you know that food science (nutrition) is really only about 150 years old? I didn’t. And that the prevailing theories over the years…basically the recommended list of what you should eat to be healthy…has only changed about 3-4 times? Pollan said that we are ALWAYS prone to THINK we know the whole deal. Yeah…it may get tweaked here and there, but…basically…this is it. Anyway…he point out that its only been in the last 30 years or something (I have forgotten the time frame) that we’ve even LEARNED that there are such things as micronutrients…now a HUGE part of food science. And HERE’S what he said that really stuck with me. The simple fact it: WE DON’T KNOW what we DON’T KNOW yet. We’ll revisit that in a bit on the concept of WHY some people believe our current food policy is DECADES out of date…and why we shouldn’t just trust what we’re told without questioning it.
OK…so let’s get specific here. For me…I may have looked like a gourmand for 25+ years…but I’ve NEVER been confused with a being a gourmet! I didn’t eat ALL that much more than most people…which left me incredibly frustrated as to why I’d grown so much bigger than everyone else. I was eating the wrong stuff. Of course, that’s a problem when you’re trying to learn about nutrition and healthy weight loss. I don’t speak “the language of food” And…as an additional complication…I’ve come to believe that my family…especially on my mom’s side…is prone to inflammation stimulated by refined carbs. We tend to be over-sized for our bone thickness. Can’t prove it…but it’s my current working theory. So I may have some level of genetic tendency to sort of be a blow-up doll when it comes to refined carbs.
Now, to get very specifc:
MY FAVORITE RESOURCES
- Whether you are just too busy to stop and have a meal sometimes (happens to me ALL the time!)…OR, maybe more to the point of this post…you need to eat…you want to watch your weight…but keep getting sucked into eating unhealthy foods (i.e., REFINED CARBS)…what would you give to have “a magic pill”…something you could gobble down quickly to stave off your hunger until it’s convenient to make better eating choices? Something to supplant your CRAVINGS for starches and sweets….A MAGICAL PILL THAT WOULD STOP FOOD FROM BEING YOUR MASTER?? Well, for me….THIS IS THAT MAGIC PILL: I have had many so-called meal-replacement bars in the past. The BEST I ever got (KIND Bars) tasted good, but only held me for about 2 hours. I’m currently eating QuestBars for most meals as the thing that satisfies my hunger. I am still not hungry FIVE HOURS after eating a QuestBar (if my stomach feels a bit empty…not the same as hunger… I’ll have a few bites to eat…feel more full…and that’s all I need. Today, I had a beefstick…a little beef jerky thing for lunch…and never ate again til dinner…and I’m currently OUT of QuestBars. When your blood sugar is stable…this just isn’t a problem). These bars are highly recommended! The Vanilla Almond Crunch is slightly sweet, chewy and quite tasty (though hardly a thing of beauty! May I suggest…a CANDLELIGHT DINNER?? LOL…). They are about 2 bucks apiece and can only be ordered online (the link is to a special deal for free shipping with your first order). I had THREE of these bars and nothing else one day because I was swamped with work…though I never got hungry at all. I just ordered 3 boxes the other day. 36 bars for about $63 delivered, I think it was…that’s well under $2/bar to your front door. I could NOT recommend these any more highly!
- Smart Carb bread from Julian Bakery. Only 1 or 2 “net carbs” per slice. Great toasted with real butter or whatever you like…I like to drizzle a tiny bit of honey on the wheat sometimes. I think I’ve only had it toasted so far About 7 bucks per loaf…but you can save a lot on shipping from California by signing up for the newsletter and waiting to order when they tell you (I have 6 loaves on the way…I’ve only tried two of the flavors so far and have two new ones coming as well. Tasty enough (both the standard Smart Carb and the Smart Carb Cinnamon and Raisin)…but I don’t care that much about the taste…I eat bread for the texture anyway. It’s like a “delivery system” for whatever I put on it or between it. Also gluten-free.
- Even if I stopped RIGHT NOW…this post would probably be considered way too long. But I am going to do an entirely separate review now of low-carb drink options…and I’ll link to it when that’s up. When I stopped drinking Mt. Dew in December, I tried Diet Rite Cherry Cola. I liked it! And I could get a LOT more liquid down. I’d pour it over a big glass of ice, and I could drink that stuff all day long. But in mid-January, after dropping 15-20 lbs eating low-carb…I hit a plateau and didn’t lose anything for about 10 days. Plateaus are normal when you’re losing weight and I’m sure I would have started up again…but I stumbled across a comment in a Tim Ferris blog post comment that said Splenda hinders weight loss…and that’s what Diet Rite uses as a sweetener. So, I started looking for drink options without aspartame (rumored to cause brain problems for some percentage of people) or Splenda. I had a can of something called Zevia 2-3 years ago and it was tolerable…but that was a 20-min drive away…so I looked for other places it was for sale. And it said Kroger. The sweetener in Zevia is stevia (a natural plant product…not created by slamming chemicals together in a lab)…and it’s also the sweetener in Sobe Lifewater.
- Sobe LifeWater – They have like A DOZEN flavors of this stuff. It’s available EVERYWHERE in the flavored waters section ($1.60 apiece for 20 oz bottle). Now…I’ve had sugar-free flavored waters before. They may SMELL like cherry…but they don’t TASTE much like anything but water. And that’s a problem for me. I tend to be dehydrated unless I’m drinking Mt Dew or Pepsi (which I haven’t had in two months). And it’s not just thirst. When you are dehydrated…
- you also more likely to suffer depression, mental confusion and other undesirable conditions
- my work requires that my throat and mouth be well-lubricated…so I need to drink a LOT
- I’ve been losing weight rapidly and my system needs flushed
- weighing nearly 400 lbs, I have a lot of waste to flush anyway, even if I wasn’t losing weight (plus…I’m “full of it”…as many of you know! )
Sobe LifeWater is NOT like any flavored water I’ve had before. A lot of flavors (my current favorite is Fuji Apple Pear), too And great flavor names like…Pomegranate Cherry, Black Cherry Dragonfruit and Acai Fruit Punch. Despite my tendency to be VERY picky about flavors, I’ve tried about 7 of them, and they were all fine. Fuji Apple Pear is incredibly smooth and just slightly sweet (a friend told me there is a slight aftertaste, but I don’t really notice it…and since I like the flavor anyway, that isn’t an issue for me). Lots of nutrients…and to me, it’s closer to a fruit juice taste than a flavored water. They are best cold over ice.
- Zevia. At Kroger. In the specialty food section. Zevia has like 10 flavors, too. Kroger carried 2 or 3…and was discontinuing one…or maybe all three. Raisin Rack at Schrock and Cleveland Ave has single cans in the cooler…so you can try any flavor you want. Prices are good there, too. Like $1.05 a can…or 99 cents a can in 6-packs. Again…reviews to come…but my favorite is Ginger Root Beer. Regular would you is too sweet for me…but it must be the ginger in this, but this stuff is good…goes down real easy. The cheapest way to buy it that I’ve found so far is thru this link…and with a monthly subscription…you get like 24 cans delivered to your door for about $21.
Dreamfields Pasta – I can’t even tell this stuff from the regular stuff. But it’s legal…so I eat it. LOL…
Also, Grace Island Cheese Crisps are much like potato chips (baaaad), but made from baked cheese coated in sesame (goooood). I’ve had two flavors…and liked them both.
As I said previously … I’m not good at food preparation…cooking, recipes, and the like. But we’ve tried some things that tasted really good, including:
- Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes. Since potatoes are a no-no on the low-carb diet, boil up some cauliflower. Then press out the liquid into paper towels. Whip it by hand or in a food processor. Add salt and butter… sour cream if you like…flavor them however you flavored mashed potatoes…onions, etc. You’ll be surprised how good they are. Here’s a video on how to do it from Jimmy Moore and his wife.
- I also like celery a lot. And I’ve made up dip several times made of sour cream,with some black olives, bacon bits, and maybe a little bit of onion. All permissible on low-carb and tasty.
So I was eating meat, cheese, eggs, full-fat butter and salad dressing…also some SmartCarb yogurt from Kroger (4 net carbs per serving…and nothing intentionally low-fat. As result (of the fat intake) , I wasn’t hungry…in fact, I mostly wasn’t thinking about food at all.. In doing this I had lost 30 pounds in about a month. I was happy and motivated by my success so far. So, I should just keep this up, right?? But…there was something nibbling at me.
Tim Ferriss had written a new book called The 4-Hour Body. Now, I had read his first book The 4-Hour Work Week back in 2007. It was filled with excellent content. I liked it enough that I reviewed it here on this blog and, in fact, made a good bit of money from the things I learned reading it. I’m still doing that today.
However, Ferriss himself is an acquired taste…one I haven’t quite acquired. He can seem very self-absorbed…his first book felt more like it was written to make him look like a hero…not to mention that the writing itself was rather convoluted. On some level, at least…it left a bad taste in my mouth.
So I stalled for a couple of months. But…this new book was on a subject that I was particularly interested in…specifically the weight loss and fitness portions. So almost 3 weeks ago I bought the Kindle version of the book for just 10 bucks (even though I don’t own a Kindle…) and just use the free Kindle software to read it on my Droid. I only read the introduction and the early chapters on nutrition. I was very pleased to discover that this book was much better written then the first one. Ferriss teaches something called Slow Carb dieting…it’s very similar to low-carb…but, in addition to the extra “S” …I’ve found three basic differences .
- you eat beans…a couple times a day
- he has supplement regimen that he calls PAGG (pretty much all-natural stuff like green tea and garlic extract)
- and, he has a mandated CHEAT DAY once a week . On that day you eat anything you want. He justifies it in two ways: psychologically, you get a break from what you’re eating all week… and can indulge your cravings (assuming you still have them…which I didn’t). And second…he claims there is biochemical justification for knocking your metabolism slightly off-guard periodically.
So…after dropping 30 pounds…I switched to the Slow Carb diet.
One other difference… not in what you are permitted to eat, but in learning how you personally approach your eating:
When eating low-carb, it’s not important to way or keep a food record, because you can have as much as you want of permitted foods. However…in the early stages of low-carbing… I was tempted to overeat for fear that I might feel deprived. So I consistently was loading my plate with more than I could eat. Ferriss makes that case that you will never be as successful on any program if you don’t track your steps and your results as you will if you do. Made sense to me. As a result, I began to cut back my portions to 4 to 6 ounces of meat…maybe throw on an ounce of cheese…maybe some olives on the side for a little extra taste, or some toasted Smart Carb wheat or cinnamon-raisin bread with butter…or some Dreamfields pasta. And to write it down.
For most of my adult like, I ate fast food twice a day. Fortunately…there’s a perfect fast food meal that works with the Slow-Carb eating plan. A large Wendy’s chili with cheese and onions. It’s about 3 bucks…and as near as I can tell, contains all permitted Slow Carb foods. Plus, I love it… I’ve been eating Wendy’s chili for a long time. Sometimes when I’m on the way back home, I’ll just get the chili itself… and mix in a little sour cream and black olives before I indulge. Tasty and cheap…under 3 bucks.
Suffice it to say…Ferriss’s book is INCREDIBLY dense and concise. He has a fairly brash personality… maybe he’s just not a big people-person…but it seems like he’s gotten a lot more smooth since the first book. and the book actually covers three main topics: nutrition, fitness and male sexual performance (both technique and testoterone production). And he’s an absolute freak… he treats his body like it’s a test lab… and even had an implant placed under his skin to keep track of his blood levels. Here’s Ferriss on The View a few weeks back talking about the content of the book. It’s very funny when the other host asks Barbara Walters : “You keeping track of the TIME, Barbara?”! Hahaha…
What I have NOT had is regular breads or candy for six weeks (except for on cheat days). That is COMPLETELY unheard of in my life. My normal breakfast BEFORE was a Sausage Egg McMuffin or a Steak Egg & Cheese Bagel from Mickey D’s, and frequently a Sausage Gravy biscuit as well. Add to that a large orange juice and you can quickly see that breakfast alone was over a thousand calories! I’ve had a couple of Sausage Egg & Cheese McMuffins-less since I changed what I was eating. McDonald’s still makes a tasty fast-food breakfast! And yesterday, it was my cheat day…so I added Sausage Gravy and biscuits to the sausage and eggs I would normally have ordered. And I had a big sausage-and-pepperoni pizza last night…and a LOT of it! But today, I am feeding my grandson the leftovers and just eating the meat topppings (which are too spicy for him anyway…and both of us are using a little ranch dressing as a dip to take the edge off). So both of us are full and satisfied…I’m just not eating refined carbs. It’s THAT simple.
I don’t touch fruit juice anymore. In his book, Ferriss says that orange juice produces a SERIOUS iron spike…plus, it’s just flavored sugar water “fortified with vitamins” anyway…almost as bad as soda!
To be clear, when I get my weight down where I am comfortable (which will probably be accompanied by a lot of saggy skin)…I plan to slowly increase my quantity of healthy carbs for a more “normal” approach to long-term eating. But, as for now, I finally feel like I have finally found my own personal key to weight maintenance through healthy eating…and WITHOUT refined carbs (except on the CHEAT days).
This post has gone on way too long… but so many people were interested in what I had been doing differently, that I thought it was best to get out all the essential information I could think of in one long blurb. I hope you find it helpful and encouraging…hopeful, if you’ve been struggling with weight loss for years as I have.
Before I close I would just like to say a word of thanks to all the people throughout my life…especially friends and family…who were concerned for my health over the years, prayed for me, brought it up in conversation (always an awkward topic to raise or otherwise tried to encourage me. Two people in particular pushed pretty hard: Don Lee and Dennis McCallum…who both went above and beyond the call in trying to encourage, enable or incentivize progress in this area. My most heartfelt thanks to you all.
Please feel free to leave questions or comments in the comments section below. Thanks for your interest!